I try to write as honestly as I can. So here’s the truth:
Growing up, I didn’t have money for the prom. My older sister, through her own sacrifice, splurged and bought my ticket. A few of my close friends rallied around me and lent me a dress to wear. My mom did my hair. Another close friend took me to the mall where we had our makeup done for free. I wore cheap, press-on nails and had to catch a ride and be a fifth wheel with a group of friends. Despite the effort(for which I am eternally grateful), it wasn’t one of the better nights of my life. But that was fine because, in my heart, I believed that I would be given that day to feel like a queen when I got married. Yes, I know! I was buying into the heteronormative and capitalistic ideal. I get it! But for now, Reader, hush. This is my story of what I believed at 18. Fast-forward five years and I’ve just gotten engaged to my best friend and boyfriend. The abusive and unhealthy relationships I had been in and out of preceding him have turned me off to the idea of lifelong commitment but he is different and I know I can see us growing old together. After years of being both humiliated and disappointed, I am hesitant to tell people I am engaged, let alone plan a wedding. At my fiance’s encouragement, however, I begin to tentatively get the ball rolling on our impending marriage. Red flags appeared immediately. My fiance went from wholly involved to could care less. The more I tried to involve him the more he avoided it. I asked him repeatedly was he sure about getting married and he answered he was. I told him I had set up a bridal appointment and he told me to go. I went and the first dress I tried on was the one. I felt like my moment was upon me. I didn’t have the money so my younger sister agreed to pay for it and then I would pay her back. I called my fiance and told him. He seemed nonchalant but happy. I asked him, again, was he sure. I begged him to tell me before my fitting if he was sure. Once I had the fitting, the money could not be refunded. He insisted that he still wanted to get married and just, as a guy, didn’t get that excited about this kind of thing. I had the fitting, order the rings, booked the venue, and moved forward.
Two weeks before the wedding, the same day I was supposed to pick up my dress, he called off the wedding. Devastation was not the word. I was crippled with hurt and rejection. The rings arrived and I sent them right back. I had to keep the bouquet which was hand made silk. The dress could not be returned so my parents and sister hid it from my view. For days I cried. My fiance called one day and begged me to hear him out. Told me he had been scared and that he still wanted to get married. I told him to prove it. He went to work that next Thursday, worked about 8 hours, drove and picked up one of my best friends and then drove non-stop for 12 hours from Barnwell, SC to come to Buffalo, NY to marry me at Niagara Falls that Saturday.
Like any person who marries the person they love, I was overjoyed. But I kept thinking about the hurt and humiliation I had felt at not being able to have the day that I had looked forward to my entire life. I know a lot of you are reading this thinking that I am childish or selfish. Maybe I am but to be fair, I only wanted one day and I didn’t get that. Rushing to Niagara Falls to get married when you aren’t sure the person is going to say “I Do” is horrifying. I spent that day and the next few wondering if he only married me so he wouldn’t lose me.
Over the next few years, we had children, graduated from college, and kept living. When birthdays came, my husband adopted that same nonchalance he had for our wedding. I started to realize that he just didn’t care to make an effort. There were birthdays when I had to sit in the car and watch him run into the store and come out with a birthday card. He felt that the mere act of remembering it was enough. It wasn’t. The problem was, for so many years I had let it be.
After I turned 30, something inside of me shifted. I stopped accepting the things I had accepted. I made the decision that there were things that I was going to demand, deserving or not. I let my husband know that I was past the point of the thought that counts and that I needed effort and romance. I no longer want to do the things we did in college. Going out to eat is a bust. Take me somewhere and make memories with me! If my life should end in the next forty years, I want to spend them doing things and saying things that I’ve have never done or said. I want to see things I never saw and feel things I never felt and very fortunate for him, I want him to be the person who is beside me. What I need now, however, is for him to be the one to put some of these things in motion. I’m tired of feeling like I’m forcing someone to show up. I am exhausted with dating myself. Dress me for a change! Tell me where we’re going. Don’t ask me! I’m not 23, I’m 32. I don’t want to go to the movies. I want to go to the mountain where Moses saw God. I want to taste foods I’ve never tasted and that isn’t at Outback or Ruth Chris. I want an adventure.
My husband has suggested over the years (along with some who were not present for our ‘wedding’) that we renew our vows and have a wedding. For me, it’s done. If I was him, I would’ve surprised me with a beach wedding YEARS AGO, but I’m not him and that ship has sailed. I understand that I will not be able to have the wedding I wanted but I am determined to have the life that I want and have fought to have. I want to have someone who loves me and celebrates and appreciates me as much as I love/want/appreciate him. Over the years, it has not always been equal and there is nothing worse than feeling like you love someone more than they love you. The thought doesn’t lessen that feeling, it counts toward proving it. I’m over the thought. Count it out! I want the effort with the action and it needs to be as dope as me. Zora Neale Hurston wrote in Their Eyes Were Watching God “Real Gods require blood.” I, in this new part of my life, am determined to be worshipped.